PINOLE, Calif. - A one-of-kind flugelhorn that once belonged to Mic Gillette from the legendary Oakland-based soul band Tower of Power was stolen from a car parked at a fast-food restaurant in Pinole and his family and friends are pleading for its return.
"He took so much pride in it, hand choosing all the details, and playing many recordings with it,'' said his daughter Megan Gillette of Walnut Creek. "I can still see his hands playing it."
Gillette died of a heart attack three years ago at age 64 and his family sold several of his horns to musician friends.
"After he passed away we agreed that he would have wanted his horns to be played, and we offered them to people he had known, respected and would pass the musical baton. This flugelhorn was one of them,'' his daughter said.
Stephen Maris, a Bay Area musician, was a neighbor of Mic Gillette's when Maris was a student at Hayward High and a member of the school's jazz band.
"He was an icon,'' Maris said.
Back in the 1980s, Gillette had started a music clinic called "Music in the Schools,'' where he would test out new arrangements for Tower of Power with Bay Area high school band members during a week-long program. It all culminated with a concert that would benefit the school's music program.
"His goal in life was to pass the baton. He wanted music to stay alive. That was always his number one goal,'' his daughter said.
Music has been a huge part of Maris' life, and he jumped at the chance to own a horn that once belonged to Gillette, who played the trombone and trumpet in Tower of Power.
"When I saw it come up for sale I was like, ‘oh my gosh, I have to have that,''' Maris said Monday. He purchased the flugelhorn last year from Gillette's wife and had played it at a show last week, he said.
On Friday around 6:15 p.m. he stopped at the In-N-Out Burger on Fitzgerald Drive in Pinole for a grilled cheese sandwich. He was driving a rental car because his vehicle is in the shop.
"I don't normally have the horns with me, but I had a gig the day before and I just hadn't taken them out of the car,'' Maris said.
The burger joint wasn't that busy last Friday evening and Maris said he nabbed a parking spot near the restaurant. He ordered his sandwich, went outside to the seating area and waited. Then he remembered that he needed his phone headset out of his car, and walked over to the vehicle. It was then that he notice that a dark-colored, newer Toyota with tinted back windows was parked behind him.
He thought that was a bit odd, but grabbed the headset from his car and went inside the restaurant to get his food. In that brief moment, the thieves smashed the rear passenger-side window and grabbed his black duffel with large pirate logos on it.
"I actually saw the people that did it, as they laid in wait for me to turn my back. It happened in five seconds,'' Maris said. "The order-taker standing outside also saw them smash and dash, and we agreed on the type and color of car, but not much else."
Maris called the Pinole Police Department and officers arrived and took a report, he said.
"The word is out in the music community about this unique horn, so it would be next to impossible for anybody else to ever play it in public. The thieves probably didn't even know what they were getting and may have simply tossed it in the trash,'' said Maris, who has alerted local music stores about the theft.
The flugelhorn, which resembles a trumpet, was custom-made by the owner of Marcinkiewicz.com in Oregon. It's a model Rembrandt with silver and gold plating, custom mother of pearl inlays and engraving. The serial number is 1134.
The brass horn was inside a black bag with a zipper that was inside the black duffel bag with the pirate logos. There were also four mutes and assorted accessories in the bag. Maris is offering an unspecified reward for the return of the horn. Anyone with information should contact the Pinole Police Department.